The worst statue in Australia?

In Cairns, there’s a Captain Cook.
Of course, you say, he’s everywhere,
a kind of cane toad, or rabbit,
with a nicer, powdery wig.
But, and do my eyes deceive me?
in Cairns he’s saluting.
A Nazi salute. But, you say
(again), James lived long before
the Nazis. And you’d be right.
Yet someone built this… ‘art’
long after the Nazis.
Someone placed it in front of
the Endeavour Inn, now gone.
Now Nazi Cook stands there,
all forlorn, ugly as Ugly’s ugly uncle,
giving his tireless salute.
The mind boggles. And yet, I say,
given the way his arrival
heralded attempted genocide,
maybe his inadvertent Nazi salute
makes a kind of sense?
This statue, which would last
ten minutes in Canberra
(that’s as in the place people live,
not the places politicians gather)
is just as grim as facts.
So perhaps this is the best statue
of Cook in Australia?
Not aesthetically, for it’s foul,
foul as a nightmare’s farts,
but historically?
I’m not the first to comment
on Cairns’s Nazi Cook.
And yet still he stands, gesturing,
truly obscene, seen on the way
to the Reef (the Frankland Islands
named by yes, you know who)
or back. You can’t see it
without the words ‘topple’
or ‘Aussie-mandias’ coming to mind.
Cairns’s Cook kicks pale mythology
quite out of decent bounds.
Unspeakably ugly, laughably gross,
and, it must be said, somewhat true.

PS Cottier

Nazi Cook

The Cairns Cook is aesthetically disgusting. At least one Indigenous artist, Munganbana Norman Miller, has taken action to address it, politically. (Note that the headline suggests that putting a ‘Sorry’ sign on the statue was vandalising it; I think that anything would improve this statue, apart from the fact that putting a sign on it is hardly vandalism. The article itself has a different tone.)

Seeing this thing made me realise that Australia really is a big place, politically. (‘Canberra vegan poet investigates Far North Queensland in one week stay!’) I have been trying to find a way to talk about it for a couple of months now, putting it in the context of debates about what we do with statues that are problematic. (That’s a link to an article by Paul Daley.)

You can read a little more about the building of this Cook statue here. That article says the gesture is copied from a painting of Cook ‘protecting’ Aborigines, which adds to the mix. There’s a much better photo there; mine was taken in a mini-bus in a state of shocked amusement. (But note that there’s a sign saying you can win a trip to Las Vegas under him, in my photo, and something about the Cock and Bull. Cook and Bull?)

Cairns, statue aside, is beautiful.

All hail the tip turkey

Tip turkey works through the plastic — a TROJAN
Tip turkey has no time for posing — he’s no STATUE
Tip Turkey is adorned with smears — a saucy TOMATO
Tip Turkey cries to the sky — frogs smoking CIGARETTES
Tip turkey smells unpleasant — but not more than homely TIP
Tip turkey fell from perfect grace — some may even call him SACRED
Tip turkey is no pink flamingo — no smiling lawn adorning TIP
Tip turkey is flung at the margins — discarded CIGARETTES
Tip turkey is letting himself go — bald seedy as TOMATO
Tip turkey follows reckless trash — a tributary STATUE
Tip turkey has no hidden surprise — he’s no TROJAN

Poet’s note: Tip turkey is a common name for Threskiornis moluccus, the Australian white ibis.

PS Cottier


The tip turkey came second in a recent poll of Australia’s favourite bird, beaten by a beak by the magpie. I voted for the budgie or the cockatoo; I can’t really remember. The idea of a ‘favourite bird’ is a bit silly, after all! This poem has been rummaging in the bins of my writing folder for ages, so I thought I’d share it.

The poem was originally called ‘But in the air they make such lovely arrows’ which explains the shape, but I thought it was a tad confusing. The tip turkey above was walking down a Canberra street like a particularly smelly ballet dancer.

UPDATE: The poem’s shape is lost on phone display. Sorry.

Tuesday poem: (Getting old)

January 29, 2018

Getting old —
I mix Laphroaig
with TISM

PS Cottier

If anyone isn’t familiar with TISM, here they are below at the Collingwood Town Hall. And yes, I found myself watching and listening to them while sipping a single malt and filling in my wee whisky book, which consists of meaningful comments such as ‘very nice’, ‘peaty!’ and ‘lovely’.

Once you know that Auchentoshan is not the sound of someone sneezing, it’s all downhill.

This one is via link. ‘Excalibur’s Lament’ is one of a number of poems on the theme Arthuriana, which is the title of the latest edition of Eye To The Telescope. Adele Gardner has edited this issue, and I am finding it fascinating to see how other poets approached re-telling, or re-imagining, the world of the round table.

Eye To The Telecope is an on-line journal of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association, based in the USA, which has members in other countries. (Including at least one in the Grand Duchy of Canberra.) Scroll down to find my poem, and enjoy reading all the issue.


Rubik’s soundcube
my dull lips and ears
can’t decipher
a glorious puzzle —
international students

PS Cottier


I was just thinking what a boring place Canberra would be without the ANU and other universities attracting so many international students, and this tanka was the result.

Looking forward to another year of posting on (most!) Tuesdays